Retinol is a controversial product in skincare. Some claim it's the best thing they have ever used, while others warn of its harsh effects. To clear everything out, we asked Dr. Kaycee Reyes of Luminisce Clinic everything we need to know about retinol.
What can retinol do for the skin?
Dr. Reyes: Vitamin A or retinol is the first vitamin found to have proven anti-aging effects by strengthening the protective function of the epidermis and protect collagen against degradation. Aside from its anti-aging properties, vitamin A and its other forms remain as the mainstay treatment of acne for their role as comedolytic (meaning they are able to prevent and treat clogged pores) and blockage of inflammatory processes inherent in the formation of acne.
Are there different types of retinol? How are they distinct from each other?
Dr. Reyes: It is important to compare the different types of retinoids used in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Retinoids are compounds of natural, biologically active forms of vitamin A, examples of which include: Retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. Then, there are synthetic forms of vitamin A which are adapalene and tazarotene.
Tretinoin is the most bioactive form among retinoids applied topically on the skin. The most commonly used tretinoin concentration in anti-acne therapy varies from 0.01 percent to 0.4 percent. It comes in the form of gel or cream.Continue reading below ↓Recommended Videos
Retinyl palmitate is a combination of pure retinol and palmitic acid. It is the weakest form of retinoid. Because of this, high concentrations are needed to achieve results similar to retinol.
Retinol is most frequently used in cosmeceutical treatment due to its ability to improve skin texture, pigmentation, and fine lines. It is very stable and well-tolerated.
Retinal is an oxidized form of retinol and is also used in cosmeceuticals. It is a stable derivative of vitamin A. It is less irritating and well-tolerated. However, it only mildly improves wrinkles and the skin texture making its efficacy in the treatment of aging skin limited.
Adapalene and tazarotene are synthetic forms of retinoid with retinoid-like activity. They exert a keratolytic effect and treats photodamaged skin (fine wrinkles and solar sunspots).Continue reading below ↓
How do you build a tolerance for it? How often can one use it?
Dr. Reyes: Topical retinoid therapy can be accompanied by skin irritation usually observed as peeling, redness, or dryness. These are typically observed in the first two to four weeks of treatment, but it will subside as its usage progresses. The peak of cutaneous irritation occurs in the first one to two weeks of retinoid therapy, but this will die down, too.
When working with retinol, wash with a gentle cleanser and use a non-comedogenic moisturizer to reduce irritation, improve hydration, and maintain a correct pH balance. Apply retinoid every other day for the first two to four weeks (based on clinical trial evidence, this is when irritation is most likely to occur) and gradually ease into regular use with the best concentration tolerated. Start with a pea-sized amount and distribute it on the whole face. However, if you cannot tolerate even the lowest concentration of retinoids, the treatment should be discontinued.
Are there ingredients that we should never use with retinol?
Dr. Reyes: The use of retinol together with alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids must also be with caution. Both act as exfoliators and strip the skin of its oil which may result in over-exfoliation and deprivation of moisture. You can still do with AHA and BHA and reduce the chance of irritation if you apply the acids in the morning and retinoids at night.
Combining benzoyl peroxide (a popular pimple-killing treatment) and natural retinoids (eg. tretinoin) should be avoided. Benzoyl peroxide can cause retinoids to oxidize which reduces its efficacy. Synthetic retinoids like adapalene can be safely used in combination with benzoyl peroxide.
Can all skin types use retinol?
Dr. Reyes: Retinoids can be safely used in all skin types from dry to oily and normal to sensitive. The best prevention method of retinoid dermatitis (bad reaction to retinol) is to start therapy from the lowest concentration and gradually increasing to a higher concentration. For patients unable to tolerate tretinoin, alternatives like adapalene and tazarotene may be used instead. Retinoids can be safely used in darker skin types in the same manner as with lighter skin types. Gel or solution formulations may be of benefit for very oily skin while creams are better for drier skin types.
Here are the retinol products Dr. Reyes recommends:
Retinal or Retinaldehyde: The Avène RetrinAL ADVANCED Wrinkle Corrector can plump up deep furrows and wrinkles.
Avène RetrinAL ADVANCED Wrinkle Corrector, at dermatological clinics
Retinol: The Dermalogica Overnight 0.5% Retinol Repair with Buffer Cream accelerate cell turnover, increase collagen production, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. It also has vitamin C to brighten and even out the skin tone.Continue reading below ↓
Dermalogica Overnight 0.5% Retinol Repair with Buffer Cream, P5,650, Rustan's the Beauty Source
Retinoic acid: The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion has a more stable type of retinoid. Its formula reduces the sign of aging (wrinkles, sagging skin, and fine lines) without irritation.Continue reading below ↓
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, P850, independent online resellers
Adapalene: Differin 0.1% Gel requires a prescription. This powerful gel can dry out severe acne.
Differin 0.1% Gel, P1,155/15g; P1,617/30g, Watsons
Buchanan PJ, Gilman RH. Retinoids: literature review and suggested algorithm for use prior to facial resurfacing procedures. J Cutan Aesthet Surg [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 Dec 17];9:139-44. Available from: http://www.jcasonline.com/text.asp?2016/9/3/139/191653
Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments Malwina Zasada and El?bieta Budzisz from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699641/
Leyden J, Stein-Gold L, Weiss J. Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2017 Sep;7(3):293-304. doi: 10.1007/s13555-017-0185-2. Epub 2017 Jun 5. PMID: 28585191; PMCID: PMC5574737
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